A qualitative descriptive study on leveraging multimodal systems for emergent bilinguals


May 2023

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



As the United States becomes more diverse, an increase in Spanish speaking emergent bilinguals (EBs) exists in classrooms. Despite the implementation of bilingual education where EBs are educated in their heritage language, English frequently becomes the dominant language in EB’s linguistic repertoires. Furthermore, the concept of literacy is changing in the 21st century, as new technologies evolve, and multiple semiotic modes are recognized as alternative affordances for communicating. Literacy is no longer relegated to oral and written forms for communicating. In this study, harnessing the power of various modes of communication offered a viable solution for EBs to develop their heritage language output (Spanish) with the goal of achieving bilingualism and biliteracy. This qualitative descriptive study chronicles how the features of multimodal instruction implemented in a two-way Spanish-English dual language bilingual classroom appeared to assist heritage Spanish speakers in developing bilingualism and biliteracy. Students engaged in multimodal activities, in a translanguaging classroom, leveraging the available modes and affordances to create meaning as the teacher/researcher documented the features of the instruction and student’s responses. Six themes were identified representing features that appeared to support heritage language development. Features included instruction that was responsive to language identities, explicit teaching, ensuring students had access to comprehensible input, building conceptual knowledge, ensuring customized creative paths for students, and building metalinguistic knowledge.



Education, Bilingual and Multicultural